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VALLEY FOCUS | Westlake Village

Composer Strikes Chord With Students

January 30, 1998|SYLVIA L. OLIANDE

Composer John Zeretzke didn't utter a word for the first three minutes of his performance Thursday at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic School, instead entrancing his audience with the beat of his drums.

The hand-held instruments from Ireland, North America and Africa, each creating a different sound, set the tone for Zeretzke's presentation, "A World of Music."

One of several performers who play for children as part of the Music Center on Tour program, Zeretzke took the fourth- through eighth-graders through centuries of musical instruments, using humor and the children's natural curiosity.

They saw, and in some cases played, instruments ranging from the earliest flutes carved from bamboo to the most modern electric violin, which, under Zeretzke's hand, sounded like whales playing in the sea.

School Principal Jenny Long said she caught Zeretzke's act at a demonstration of Music Center performers and chose him because she was impressed with his ability to bring school subjects to life through the music. At the time, he dealt with math, now it was history.

Zeretzke, who also composes for films and modern ballets, said he performs with the Music Center program because it is important to ensure that music is a part of a child's education.

He said that he got bad grades as a student until he was finally introduced to something he did well, and he began playing the violin.

"I like to give back to the kids something that was important to me as a child," he said before the performance.

For much of the hourlong performance, Zeretzke had the students laughing, shouting out answers to questions about music and clapping along with his songs.

He may even have touched a new generation with his music.

Fifth-grader Ashley Connor, who with her older brother John got to play the flute with Zeretzke, said her favorite part of the presentation was his demonstration of violins through the ages.

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